Welcome to Wear Wag Repeat Podcast Episode 20: Emily Lagasse of Fedwell Pet Food adopted a dog while serving the Peace Corps in Africa, only to get home and realize that highly processed American dog food made her pup sick. One day she found a flyer for a dog food cooking class, and it’s fair to say that class changed her life!
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Emily Lagasse is the founder and CEO of Fedwell Pet Foods, a Boston-based company offering the only 100% natural pet food on the market. Fedwell products are based on Emily’s home-cooked recipes that she used to heal her African dog, Fenway, after he got sick upon their return from Peace Corps service in Togo. Every gently baked bag of Fedwell contains recognizable ingredients anyone would be proud to serve their family.
Fedwell is currently carried in specialty pet stores across New England, and on Fedwell.com. She is also preparing to launch her first retail store in the Boston area, to help pet parents fully address their pet health needs.
Tori: Tell us about the origin story of Fedwell.
Emily: I joined the Peace Corps in 2008. I knew that, if at all possible, I’d get a dog while I was there. I knew it would be the perfect time in my life. I got fenway after I’d been in Togo for about 5 months. We lived in my little house with no running water or electricity. He was with me all the time. After my service was over, I came back with him in September 2010. There were a lot of adjustments for both of us. Fenway had never seen a sliding glass door or heard a doorbell, but he quickly adjusted. In togo he ate a lot of rice and beans and fresh produce, basically all the same foods I ate. When he started eating a commercial diet here in the US his health really declined. He was so melancholy all the time. He developed stomach problems and allergies.
One day I saw a flyer that said “Learn How To Cook For Your Dog”. So I took the class and started cooking for him. If I hadn’t taken that class I’m not sure I ever would have gone down this path.
Tori: So how did you turn this passion for Fenway’s food into a business?
Emily: It was a slow progression. I got into the whole science of it. It’s a very involved process to plan all the meals, prepare them, store them properly, etc. As I talked to people at parties and dog parks I realized many people wanted to feed their dog like I do but didn’t have the time or resources to do it. I considered going to a commercial kitchen, making a dehydrated products, etc. I ended up focusing on making what I put out there are close as possible to what I made in my own kitchen. So I ended up coming up with a baked food that has a shelf life, that’s important to people.
Tori: How did you find a facility to make this food for you?
Emily: Most dog foods are extruded – it’s a machine that pushes out and cuts the food like play doh. But it’s a high heat process and that wasn’t right for me. I wanted to focus on a baked product. So I did my research! I went to the store and looked at the packaging of all the dog foods that were baked and I just started making calls. I got directed to the chamber of commerce in various states, or the company that prints the packaging. It was a lot of detective work! It took me about a year to find someone to help me make this.
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